News media firms move Madras HC over new IT rules
Digital News Publishers Association - a 13-member group of the country's biggest news media firms - has challenged the constitutional relevance of the central government's new Information Technology rules (IT Rules, 2021) in the Madras High Court. Based on the petition, the court has issued notices to the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Rules will bring an era of 'surveillance and fear': Plea
The rules violate provisions of equality, right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to profession, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, the petition alleges. It added there is "sufficient basis for the petitioners...apprehension that coercive and arm-twisting action may be taken" against media companies. These rules are likely to begin an era of "surveillance and fear," according to the plea.
Next hearing is after three weeks
A bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy attached the matter with an earlier petition filed by musician TM Krishna against the rules. The two respondents, which are the aforementioned Union Ministries, are required to file their counter-affidavits within a period of two weeks. The issue will next be heard after three weeks, reports say.
Court grants liberty to approach if coercive action taken
The judges also granted the petitioners liberty to approach the court in case any coercive action is initiated by the government by invoking Rules 12, 14, and 16 of the IT Rules, 2021, Bar & Bench reported.
Who are the petitioners in the case?
The DNPA comprises 13 media entities - ABP Network, Amar Ujala, Dainik Bhaskar Corp, Express Network, HT Digital Streams, IE Online Media Services, Jagran Prakashan, Lokmat Media, NDTV Convergence Limited, TV Today Network, The Malayala Manorama, Times Internet Limited, and Ushodaya Enterprises Private Limited. Mukund Padmanabhan, the former Editor of The Hindu, is a co-petitioner in the case.
9th plea against the new IT rules
This is notably the ninth such plea against the new IT rules. Five petitions have already been filed before the Delhi High Court, two each are pending in the Kerala and Madras High Courts, and another in the Karnataka High Court, The Indian Express reported.
New IT rules were announced on February 25
The new IT rules were announced on February 25, seeking the regulation of media content in India. Last month, messaging company WhatsApp had filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court against the guidelines while social media giant Twitter has been involved in a row with the government over them. The government maintains the rules are meant to stop the misuse of digital media.